A former TD and farmer has said he is aware of male dairy calves being killed with plastic bags and lump hammers.
Former Cork East TD Ned O’Keeffe, who is a pig and dairy farmer near Mitchelstown in Co Cork, made the comments during a question and answer session on calf welfare at the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers (ICMSA) AGM in Limerick.
“I make it public here I attended a mart meeting where there were 300 people present and a small, honest-to-goodness farmer milking 80 cows came in and said he had two dead calves in that particular year. He went to a knackery and saw 400 calves in a dump and he asked a man in the yard where did they come from and he said 'they saw the lump hammer',” said Mr O’Keeffe.
“I heard of a farmer trying to kill male bobby calves with plastic bags. I didn’t report them. It’s not my job. We all know this is happening. Why should we cover it up? Now is the time to stop it.”
Mr O’Keeffe was shouted down by farmers on the floor who stated he should have reported it with ICMSA president Pat McCormack adding that “lump hammers are for building sites, Ned.”
Mr O’Keeffe added that there are a small number of people out there trying to damage the dairy industry.
“I want to make point that this needs to be stamped out and knackeries have a role to play here. Calves aren’t being tagged or identified.”
The AGM’s panel consisted of representatives from Teagasc, Bord Bia, Glanbia and Veterinary Ireland discussing the topical issue of male dairy calf welfare for the upcoming calving season.
Teagasc’s Laura Boyle stated that she was worried that the animal welfare challenge could be magnified in the spring and added that bull calves have a higher risk of death and disease
“There are a small proportion of farmers that do horrendous things. We all need to up our game. We are on the cusp of change. Patience and empathy are needed and a euthanasia programme should be put in place for sick animals that should be discussed with veterinarians beforehand and shouldn’t be delayed,” said Ms Boyle.
Conor Geraghty of Veterinary Ireland added that having good labour and properly trained farmers is key to ensuring high standards of calf welfare and that sexed semen needs to be pushed.